Sunday, August 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Jones: Why Lightning fans won't lose sleep over Drouin trade to Montreal

Jonathan Drouin is a decent NHL player on his way to being a good NHL player.

He might even turn out to be a very good player.

But it won't be for the Lightning.

And that's fine.

Au revoir, Jonathan, and don't let the Zamboni door hit you on the way out of town. Then again, if the Zamboni door is in the defensive end, there's no chance Drouin will be anywhere near it.

Don't fret, Lightning fans. Don't lose sleep. This is all going to work out just fine.

The Lightning traded an often moody, sometimes selfish, occasionally petulant, one-dimensional, streaky player for one who has a chance to become a top-pair defenseman — the rarest of NHL commodities and something the Lightning needs more than anything in this world.

Hey, did you forget? The Lightning missed the playoffs last season. Changes needed to be made. Changes should be made. Bold changes.

This is certainly a bold change, although let's not act as if the Lightning just traded Wayne Gretzky.

If Steven Stamkos can stay healthy — and, yes, that's a big if at this point — the Lightning isn't going to miss Drouin's offense at all.

But be warned: this trade is going to take some time to swing the Lightning's way. Mikhail Sergachev, the player the Lightning acquired, is only 18 years old. If he's like most young defensemen, he's going to need a couple of years of seasoning to reach his potential.

And from listening to people who know their hockey, Sergachev's potential is enormous.

But, I get it, this a tough deal for the Lightning to make and an even harder one for Lightning fans to swallow. People don't like what they haven't seen. We're comfortable with familiarity and very uncomfortable with the unknown.

We've seen plenty of Drouin — 164 NHL games worth. We've seen 29 goals and 66 assists, and we've seen many of them again and again on highlight shows. He can be a dazzling player and we tend to remember those special moments instead of all the turnovers in his own zone on the rare times he bothered to get back into his own zone.

On the other hand, most casual hockey fans had never even heard of Sergachev let alone seen him play. That's why Lightning fans are a little spooked today. They have to rely on scouting reports and opinions instead of their own eyes.

This deal, however, is so much more complicated than a simple player-for-player hockey deal that fills needs for two hockey teams and looks promising for all parties involved.

There's the upcoming expansion draft and salary cap issues and other core players who need to be signed, now and in the future.

There's more.

We cannot discount Drouin's troubled history in Tampa Bay, which included Drouin quitting the organization and what appeared to be a strained relationship with coach Jon Cooper. As much the Lightning might have wanted to part ways with Drouin, you have to think Drouin is more than thrilled to be leaving Tampa Bay, especially to play about a block from where he lives in Montreal.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman shot down such a question Thursday, saying the deal was strictly a hockey deal. The Lightning needed something the Canadiens had and you have to give up something good to get something good. He called Drouin an "excellent young man'' and added, "I expect he's going to have a long and successful career.''

That might be true, but if the Lightning truly believed it needed Drouin to win a Stanley Cup, Drouin would still be here.

And should the Lightning really want a player who, deep down, doesn't want to be here?

Look, for all his faults (and there are many), Drouin has skills (and there are many) you cannot teach. He's going to have big moments in Montreal. Some of them might even happen against Tampa Bay, seeing as how he remains in the same division. He will show up on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays and on plenty of score sheets.

One place he won't show up? In Lightning nightmares.

This deal is going to work out just fine for Tampa Bay.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones

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